My Predictions of Workforce Trends In 2018

As we wind down 2017 and begin looking forward to a new year, I’ve been thinking about the issues, trends, and themes that are likely to shape the experience of the Federal workforce in the second year of the Trump Administration.  And, while I’m not a very good prognosticator – I picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl, the Nationals to win the World Series, and was betting on August as the release date for the final book from George R.R. Martin in his Song of Fire and Ice Series – I thought I’d take a stab at predicting what workforce trends and themes may emerge in 2018.  Here are my top 4 predictions:

  1. The importance of psychological safety at work will be an important topic for discussion. A Rand report in August 2017 noted that nearly 1 in 5 American workers say they face a hostile or threatening social environment at work. This sad statistic, when combined with the high-profile incidences of sexual harassment at work point to a disturbing pattern of working conditions. While efforts focused on workplace safety have drastically improved the physical safety of workers in the last 30 years, it’s clear that the concepts and disciplines need to be extended and expanded to include a view towards improving the emotional and psychological safety at work. In 2018, this movement should pick up steam and become an area of focus for leadership development programs and human resources organizations. And, individual leaders increase their focus on building environments that encourage inclusivity, trust, and bi-directional feedback.
  2. Work/life balance will continue to take on greater importance. With the country approaching full employment and the percentage of the workforce from younger generations continuing to increase, organizations will again need to focus on ensuring their work environment and the demands they place on workers can be appropriately aligned to fit with non-work activities. I think the conversation will, and should, move away from a discussion of “balance” and the notion of “fit” will come to the forefront. Organizations will need to figure out what role they can and should play in helping individuals navigate their obligations to the organization where they work while maintaining their personal commitments to family, friends, social causes, and themselves.
  3. We will finally experience the tipping point where interest in “organizational culture” transitions to attention and investment in building constructive cultures that enable high performance. For at least the last three years organizational culture has been a popular buzzword and many organizations are investing in shaping a culture that enables performance. But, still, the majority of CEOs and senior leaders, even though they acknowledge the importance of culture, are not making the investments required to drive performance through intentional stewardship of their organization’s culture. In 2018, I believe, not only will organizations realize the culture is an essential enabler of high performance, but can also be a powerful discriminator in attracting and retaining the high-quality talent they need to meet their objectives.
  4. There will be a renewed focus on understanding and using social networks to improve performance in organizations. Most Federal agencies are already confronted with the challenge to do more with less, a phenomenon that isn’t likely to change in 2018. Add to this the recent finding by the Corporate Executive Board that indicates willingness to invest discretionary effort is at an all-time low among workers and it’s clear that agencies will face significant challenges in meeting mission demands. To meet this challenge, I predict a growing interest in harnessing the power of social networks to understand how work gets done, where collaboration exists, and where stronger connections and information sharing could drive better results. Organizations will begin making investments to map the connectedness of their workforce and identify ways to leverage these connections and the natural sharing of knowledge to make work more efficient, optimize business processes, and simplify the way work is accomplished.

At the macro level, these four trends all fall under the umbrella of the idea of creating a People First workplace – that is, an organization where there is clear recognition of the direct connection between the well being of the workforce and the success of the company.  The “uber-trend” that I think (and hope) will continue to affect the experience of workers in 2018 is embracing the reality that when workers thrive, so do businesses.  Whether you are improving psychological safety or mapping social networks to simplify processes, only when senior leaders in the organization embrace and embody an attitude that creates the conditions for their people to thrive will organizations be able to realize their full potential.

So, here’s to hoping that I can predict positive workplace trends better than the outcomes of athletic contests.  And, here’s to hoping that the New Year brings improved working conditions, a broader perspective on how to improve performance in organizations, and a real focus on putting people first in your organizational strategy.

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Written by:
Tim Bowden
Custom Learning Solutions



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